Top Frog

It’s a kids’ version of backgammon called Abagio. Except that it’s not really backgammon. And not just a kids’ game, either.

The goal in Abagio is to get all of your 12 frogs into the pond before your opponent does but it’s not cut and it’s certainly not very dry, this pond. You move from the often perilous ‘outer path’ to the (relative) safety of the ‘inner path’ but there’s one more space looming ahead, right before the finish line, where you can’t protect your frogs and a hit might just send you back….all the way to the ‘root’ space.

Reading through the rules, we spot a reference to ‘hitting a blot’ and are worried that the game will be too ‘backgammony’…’gammonish’? …..’gammonesque’??

But we’re quickly past that. Several great wrinkles (ah……those beautiful wrinkles) make Abagio something quite special. There are “leaps” and “heaps” and “capping” and “maxing”. And even a neutral “top frog” that both players can use to protect some of their pieces…if they qualify.

Designer April McCoy’s board is gorgeous…like a pond in a stained glass window. The froggy-pieces stack up neatly. There are even beautiful see-through dice, for frog’s sake! And plenty of opportunities to use your head in Abagio. (Say it out loud…Ah-BAH-Zhee-Oh…even sounds like fun, doesn’t it?)

Before we know it, the game is over and we’re craving one more. The second time around shows us more strategic possibilities and we’re ‘toad’ally hooked. Abagio is, in a word, Frogalicious! (Hey! If they can make up the word “Abagio”…..)

Yum! Yum! Major FUN!

(updated 11/9/2009)

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